Big Hit, Netmarble team up on new music-streaming platform

Big Hit Entertainment, the mastermind behind global sensation BTS, and the nation’s No. 1 mobile game developer, Netmarble, have joined hands to launch a brand-new music-streaming platform, multiple sources said Tuesday.

Even though the new platform may not be solely dedicated to BTS, sources say, the septet is highly likely to release some new songs exclusively for the platform.

“The two firms have started development work as a venture project. The platform is targeting global users around the world,” a Big Hit investor told The Korea Herald on condition of anonymity. 

Bang Jun-hyuk (left) and Bang Si-hyuk. (The Korea Herald DB)

The new platform might also offer podcasting services, he added, but the details are still under discussion. “The two firms will continue to analyze the marketability of the new platform before its official launch. They would not rush.”

Another industry source familiar with the matter also confirmed the plans. “Big Hit has been seeking to enter the music distribution business as part of its efforts to diversify revenue sources, which are now largely dependent on BTS,” according to the source, who did not wish to be identified. “Operating its own platform may help reduce some commission fees paid to distributor partners, but more importantly that would help Big Hit gauge its own brand power with the general public, not just BTS fans.”

A Big Hit spokesperson, however, denied the platform development without further elaborating.

News of the platform comes as investors are increasingly paying keen attention to the extended partnership between Big Hit and Netmarble. 

(Yonhap)

Big Hit founder and chief producer Bang Si-hyuk and Netmarble CEO Bang Jun-hyuk are relatives who have closely supported each other since their early days. In 2014, Netmarble acquired a 25.2 percent stake in Big Hit, becoming its second-largest shareholder after Bang Si-hyuk, who holds 43.1 percent.

Over the years, BTS, which debuted in 2013, has topped global pop charts and is now one of the world’s most streamed bands, while the market value of Big Hit has reached a whopping 2 trillion won ($1.7 billion).

(Netmarble)

Speculation is rampant that the two firms are seeking greater synergy, especially by using lucrative BTS-related intellectual property. Their latest collaboration — BTS World, a BTS-themed simulation game — hit the market June 26 and became the most downloaded app in 51 countries that same day.

Last year, Big Hit posted 213.2 billion won in sales and 50.2 billion won in operating profit. Music sales made up almost 30 percent of the company’s total revenue. This year, another record-breaking year for BTS, the firm’s operating profits are expected to nearly double to 90 billion won.

Currently, Big Hit distributes BTS songs through separate partnerships with distributors. In South Korea, it has signed a deal with SK Telecom’s iRiver for local platforms like Kakao’s Melon and KT’s Genie, while globally it has partnered with companies like Sony Music-owned the Orchard and Soribada.

In the meantime, Korea’s music-streaming market is estimated to be worth 1 trillion won. Melon owns the largest share, 40 percent, followed by Genie, Naver Music and SK Telecom’s Flo.

By Hong Dam-young (lotus@heraldcorp.com)